Sheila Samples: God Has Left The Building...
God Has Left The Building...by Sheila Samples
If you talk to God, you are praying; If God talks to you, you have schizophrenia.~~Thomas S. Szasz, The Second Sin
Several months ago, CNN published the results of a couple of disturbing polls about Americans and their religious beliefs. The first found that more Americans are rejecting religion and thus, according to CNN, America is becoming "less Christian." The second, a Pew survey of only 742 mostly white evangelical Protestants, revealed that more than six in 10 of them believe that torture is often or sometimes justified.
More than six in 10? What this says about those claiming to be God's own is that perhaps they should use their Bibles for more than "thumping." Because not one in 10 -- not one in 10 thousand -- not one in 10 million -- Christians believes that torture can ever be justified. Ever.
Anyone who has paid attention to the growing number of evangelical zealots over the past couple of decades must be aware that there is a growing chasm between Religion and Christianity. Today, the term, "religious Christians" is nothing if not oxymoronic. It seems when folks become apocalyptic frothing-at-the-mouth religious, they ultimately stray from the light and life of Christianity, while descending deeper into the darkness and death of Religion.
Because, all religion is politics. CNN quoted Mark Silk of Trinity College, who said, "In the 1990s, it really sunk in on the American public generally that there was a long-lasting 'religious right' connected to a political party, and that turned a lot of people the other way." Silk cited the obvious link between the Republican Party and groups such as the Moral Majority and Focus on the Family.
Tony Perkins, the right-wing evangelical president of the Family Research Council, told CNN not to worry. He said people will return to their faith in droves; that soon, the decline will ease and religion will be an even greater part of people's lives. The good news, according to Perkins, is, "As the economy goes downward, I think people are going to be driven to religion." (emphasis added)
Yes, as more Americans lose their jobs, their homes, their very reasons for living, those like Perkins see them as Manchurian congregations -- flocks driven to religion like cattle -- bawling, shuffling, pushing, milling around with tags in their ears, looking for a leader. Even now, they can be seen in mammoth mega-churches, some with arms raised -- fists clutching at dead air -- others writhing in the aisles, moaning, begging for some "sign" from their rigidly religious God. Perhaps their panic stems from the instinctive knowledge that God, unable to get a word in edgewise, has left the building.
The conservative religious right is a frightening political force driven in its efforts to divide and conquer by greed, an insatiable lust for power, and an ideology of hate. Its members, unable to drag God down to their level, have no qualms about elevating themselves to what they perceive as His level. They succeed in controlling the flock because fear -- especially fear of God -- is a great motivator. They use God not only as a weapon against millions who stand between them and their goals of replacing democracy with theocracy and of controlling the worlds resources and its people -- but as a divine justification for the destruction they leave in their wake.
No one was more adept at giving God credit for his killing fields than former president George W. Bush, who openly bragged that God had hired him to remove evil from the face of the earth. "I trust God speaks through me," Bush said in 2004. "Without that, I couldn't do my job." And, even before that, in 2003, Bush tried to round up a "coalition of the willing" for his Iraq slaughter on God's behalf. According to Charleston Gazette editor James A. Haught, Bush told then French President Jacques Chirac that "Iraq must be invaded to thwart Gog and Magog, the Bible’s satanic agents of the Apocalypse." Haught wrote...
"Chirac recounts that the American leader appealed to their “common faith” (Christianity) and told him: “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East…The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled…This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins."
But some presidents, such as Lyndon Johnson, were not so magnanimous. God got the blame, not the credit, for the Vietman atrocity. Ronnie Dugger, in his book, "The Politician: The Life and Times of Lyndon Johnson," writes that Johnson told Austrian ambassador Ernst Lemberter in 1966 that the Holy Ghost regularly visited him..."He comes to me about 2 o'clock in the morning," Johnson said, "--when I have to give word to the boys, and I get the word from God whether to bomb or not."
Now, you don't have to be a Christian to reject the right-wing bull hockey that the God who appeared in a blinding flash of light and spoke to Paul on the road to Damascus has sunk to the evangelical depths where He emits not even a glimmer as He bends our presidents' ears on who to slaughter, urges televangelist Pat Robertson to ask a woman about her sex life, and is still deciding if He wants Michelle Bachman or Sarah Palin to be president.
Christians should be lauded for rejecting modern-day Religion. When the God they are taught to love is either credited -- or blamed -- for all hell on earth; when they search in vain for Jesus, and finally find Him, hanging out in a secretive townhouse on Washington's C Street with the greedy, war-mongering gang who refer to themselves as "The Family," it's time to take a second look at the direction in which this nation is hurtling.
For years, conservative right-wingers have hidden out in the C Street "church," where they are free to conduct all manner of fraud and to carry on adulterous affairs. People who have sold their souls; who have no sense of morality, and who use God as a Trojan Horse to hide their political manipulations to replace both Democrats and Democracy are quite mad, you know. Right-wing evangelicals and neocon operatives are consumed with religious hate, not Christian love. Their modus operandi is, as Weekly Standard operative William Kristol said, "go for the kill."
And, those who are familiar with Kristol know he wasn't referring just to health care. Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition protege, the now disgraced Ralph Reed, dubbed in 1995 by Time magazine as "the right hand of God," was a master at evangelical politics, which he said was like Viet Cong-style guerrilla warfare. Reed said, "I want to be invisible. I do guerrilla warfare. I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag. You don't know until election night."
Anyone doubting the viciousness with which Reed would "go for the kill" should have a talk with Vietnam War hero and amputee Max Cleland, who not only found himself crammed into a body bag on election night 2002, thanks to Ralph Reed, but was in there with Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.
But Reed and others are tyros when it comes to those most likely to cause Christians to reject religion -- those whom CNN failed to mention who incite violence by preaching sermons laced with politics, religion, racism -- and hate. Those like Tempe, Arizona's Steven Anderson, who has no college degree nor formal Bible training, but is qualified to preach because he "has memorized almost half of the New Testament." Anderson started his own church -- Faithful Word Baptist -- in 2005 on Christmas Day. A firey right-wing preacher, he's against homosexuality, liberalism -- and President Barack Obama.
In August, Anderson gave a breathtakingly vile speech entitled, "Why I Hate Obama," in which he said about President Obama, among many other things...
"Obama is a madman in control of this
"Obama is NOT my president."
"Obama mocks the Bible."
"Obama is a socialist devil murderer."
"I hope he dies and goes to hell."
"God looks down and says, 'Man -- I HATE that guy!'"
Anderson, and those like him, epitomize the breach between Religion and Christianity. The religious believe that God belongs to them. Christians know that they belong to God. It's that simple. Thus, CNN polls notwithstanding, America cannot become "less Christian" as a result of members of the flock jerking the tags from their ears -- and rejecting modern-day religion.